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NEW WAVE NEW BEAT: PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE NEW YORK COLLECTION

Ellen Gallagher
ELEPHANT BONES
Estimate
Irrevocable Bids
Lots with this symbol indicate that a party has provided Sotheby’s with an irrevocable bid on the lot that will be executed during the sale at a value that ensures that the lot will sell. The irrevocable bidder, who may bid in excess of the irrevocable bid, will be compensated based on the final hammer price in the event he or she is not the successful bidder or may receive a fixed fee in the event he or she is the successful bidder. If the irrevocable bidder is the successful bidder, the fixed fee (if applicable) for providing the irrevocable bid may be netted against the irrevocable bidder’s obligation to pay the full purchase price for the lot and the purchase price reported for the lot shall be net of such fixed fee. If the irrevocable bid is not secured until after the printing of the auction catalogue, a pre-lot announcement will be made indicating that there is an irrevocable bid on the lot. If the irrevocable bidder is advising anyone with respect to the lot, Sotheby’s requires the irrevocable bidder to disclose his or her financial interest in the lot. If an agent is advising you or bidding on your behalf with respect to a lot identified as being subject to an irrevocable bid, you should request that the agent disclose whether or not he or she has a financial interest in the lot.
UK: Greenford Park
Lots marked W will be sent to Greenford Park Fine Art Storage Facility immediately after the auction.
Double Dagger
Indicates that the lot is being sold whilst subject to Temporary Importation, and that VAT is due at the reduced rate
Guaranteed Property
Guaranteed Property. The seller of lots with this symbol has been guaranteed a minimum price from one auction or a series of auctions. If every lot in a catalogue is guaranteed, the Conditions of Sale will so state and this symbol will not be used for each lot.
200,000300,000
LOT SOLD. 394,000 GBP
JUMP TO LOT
12

NEW WAVE NEW BEAT: PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE NEW YORK COLLECTION

Ellen Gallagher
ELEPHANT BONES
Estimate
Irrevocable Bids
Lots with this symbol indicate that a party has provided Sotheby’s with an irrevocable bid on the lot that will be executed during the sale at a value that ensures that the lot will sell. The irrevocable bidder, who may bid in excess of the irrevocable bid, will be compensated based on the final hammer price in the event he or she is not the successful bidder or may receive a fixed fee in the event he or she is the successful bidder. If the irrevocable bidder is the successful bidder, the fixed fee (if applicable) for providing the irrevocable bid may be netted against the irrevocable bidder’s obligation to pay the full purchase price for the lot and the purchase price reported for the lot shall be net of such fixed fee. If the irrevocable bid is not secured until after the printing of the auction catalogue, a pre-lot announcement will be made indicating that there is an irrevocable bid on the lot. If the irrevocable bidder is advising anyone with respect to the lot, Sotheby’s requires the irrevocable bidder to disclose his or her financial interest in the lot. If an agent is advising you or bidding on your behalf with respect to a lot identified as being subject to an irrevocable bid, you should request that the agent disclose whether or not he or she has a financial interest in the lot.
UK: Greenford Park
Lots marked W will be sent to Greenford Park Fine Art Storage Facility immediately after the auction.
Double Dagger
Indicates that the lot is being sold whilst subject to Temporary Importation, and that VAT is due at the reduced rate
Guaranteed Property
Guaranteed Property. The seller of lots with this symbol has been guaranteed a minimum price from one auction or a series of auctions. If every lot in a catalogue is guaranteed, the Conditions of Sale will so state and this symbol will not be used for each lot.
200,000300,000
LOT SOLD. 394,000 GBP
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

Contemporary Art Evening Auction

|
London

Ellen Gallagher
B. 1965
ELEPHANT BONES
signed and dated 1995 on the reverse
oil, pencil and paper on canvas
213.4 by 182.9 cm. 84 by 72 in.
Read Condition Report Read Condition Report

Provenance

Mary Boone Gallery, New York
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1995

Exhibited

New York, Mary Boone Gallery, Ellen Gallagher, January - February 1996

Literature

Peter Schjeldahl, ‘Color Line’, The Village Voice, 23 January 1996, p. 81, illustrated (detail)

Anon., Art Now/Gallery Guide, New York, February 1996, illustrated in colour (on the cover)

Greg Tate, ‘Ghosting Her Way to Fame’, Vibe, April 1996, p. 40, illustrated in colour

Pilar Viladas, ‘Posh Spice’, The New York Times, 29 October 2000, p. 76, illustrated in colour

Catalogue Note

Elephant Bones by Ellen Gallagher injects narrative, symbology and African American history into the supposedly ‘pure’ forms of conventional 1960s Minimalism. Subtly containing reference to what the artist refers to as ‘the disembodied ephemera of minstrelsy’, the work superimposes careful, hand-drawn lines over the print of penmanship paper. In Elephant Bones Gallagher draws on the scientific hypothesis that elephants may recognise the bones of their families by scent – in this work the suggested form of a trunk or excavated pathway alludes to an unseen animal through hundreds of miniature marks. Known for her erudite, deceptively minimal collages of iconography from pop culture, ancient mythology, American history and twentieth-century art history, Gallagher created Elephant Bones in 1995 as part of a sequence of works including Oogaboogah (1994), Oh! Susanna (1993) and Afro Mountain (1994) that brought about her recognition and laudation within the fierce New York art world of the early 1990s. While on first glance reminiscent of Agnes Martin, these paintings belie thousands of meticulous cuts, prints and embossings; contortions that satirise Minimalism’s piously clean lines. A rich tapestry, the unevenly-aligned squares of Elephant Bones evoke patchwork from the Southern states of North America, and, further back in history, the African kente cloth from which such embroidery originated. Likewise in Delirious Hem (1995), Gallagher transmutes rows of racist imagery such as thick lips and bug eyes into strips of exquisite African cloth, operating an appropriative practice that modulates these forms of oppression into tools of Black and female empowerment. Hugely respected as a cerebral mixed-media artist – with a virtuosic attention to detail and an acute, humorous wit – Gallagher enjoyed her first major solo exhibition in the United Kingdom at the Tate Modern in 2013.

The present work thematically foreshadows some of Gallagher’s best-known work, including the grid-like collages of Pomp-Bang and Bouffant Pride, both made in 2003. Appropriating found advertisements aimed at African American women for hair tonics, skin-lighteners and wigs, all derived from 1930s through to 1970s editions of publications such as Ebony, Our World and Black Stars, Gallagher created grids from such magazine pages. She then conferred to them exaggeratedly scarlet lips, rendered their eyes a bleach-white with scissors, and with plasticine bestowed them with elaborate blonde hairstyles. By so eloquently satirising the mechanism of oppression enacted by magazines, Gallagher retroactively frees the women depicted in the original advertisements; their images now – far from passive in cultural-products testifying only to cruelty – play an active role in Gallagher’s creative practice.

Contemporary Art Evening Auction

|
London